Tuesday, February 28, 2012

HR Forum Update: News and Info for Job Seekers

Last weekend, I had an opportunity to attend the annual HR Forum organized by the Resume Writer's Council of Arizona. This event enables resume writers and career specialists to sit down with global and national hiring managers with more than 30 years of combined hiring and recruiting experience and learn about hiring trends.

I was part of a group of career services professionals that attended the HR Forum. We were able to ask about the process that these HR specialist go through to hire candidates, the way they source and screen their employees, and their thoughts on resumes. I want to pass on the highlights of the event to you.

  • The use of applicant tracking systems has become common among larger corporations. The experts we talked with hired both globally and nationally. The use of an applicant tracking system, where applicants upload their resume and cover letter into the company's database, is the way they go about screening and locating candidates.
  • The recruiters estimated that 80% of their jobs were not ever posted. Most jobs were filled before they had to be posted by searching for candidates through their applicant tracking system or networking.
  • Due to the importance of networking, our panel of expert HR professionals focused on the importance of using LinkedIn to build a professional profile. All the experts claimed that they use LinkedIn to look for candidates and evaluate their background.
  • Our panel of recruiters touted the importance of getting to know the in-house hiring and recruiting staff to network your way into a company. They suggested using LinkedIn to make connections, attending job fairs and hiring events to meet them in person, going to industry trade shows, and participating in local or industry-specific networking groups to make connections and form relationships. They suggested participating in all these activities, whether you were actively seeking employment or not, so you have a healthy network at all times.
  • As much as the recruiters stated that getting to know the HR staff was important, they stressed that there is a fine line between being assertive in your networking and "stalking" the recruiter. Follow up, be professional, and make contacts but also respect their time and realize they have other priorities than you.
  • The recruiters confirmed that if a candidate has 80% of the qualifications on a job posting that they should go ahead and apply. They stressed the difference between "need to have" qualifications and "want to have" qualifications.
  • That being said, the recruiters went on to discuss a lack of education. They stated that in some cases they would be willing to overlook a lack of a Bachelor's degree. However, the candidate should have two to three times the length of an education to compensate for lack of education. (i.e. 12 years experience to compensate for the lack of a 4-year college degree)
  • When a resume is viewed in an applicant tracking system, only the top third of the resume is visible. The summary of qualifications has become more important than ever before! If the top third of the resume "does not clearly state how the candidate can add value" they will not even bother to open the resume in the system.

How to Maintain Focus As a Post Grad

In college, you probably learned the fine art of multi-tasking. You studied for exams while watching "The Office" while chatting with your roommate while texting your friends. With all the distractions these days with multiple forms of social media, email and television it can be hard to stay focused on one thing, especially something as daunting as job hunting. It can be very easy to want to take the day off, so to say, as you spend your days trying to grab a career. Here are some tips on staying focused and managing your time well as you search for jobs:

1. Turn off all forms of electronic devices. Shut off your cell phone, iPod, iPad, whatever. You'll probably be using your computer to look for jobs and it will be extremely tempting to take a little Facebook break. Use Internet tools such as Leechblock for Firefox that allow you to temporarily block certain websites so you aren't tempted to waste time. If you are using your phone to call businesses, try to use a landline if you can to avoid temptation to text.

2. Use good time management. Don't say that you are going to spend 10 straight hours job hunting because you'll never actually do it or you'll quickly get burned out. Block out a few hours per day to job hunt and use the time to search for jobs using the Internet and newspapers, call businesses and visit them in person. Take breaks for food and relaxing so you don't stress yourself out.

3. Make sure you have a clear plan. If you don't really know what you're looking for or how to go about a job search, you'll quickly lose focus. Make a list of potential jobs or careers in relation to your degree that you have interest in. Make a list of people you can network with and ask for help with your job search. Keep track of the places you go to job search, the companies you apply with, the people you talk to, etc. Keeping track of all of this information ensures that you can follow up with jobs you apply for and that you don't apply twice.

4. Set weekly goals for yourself. The main goal is obviously to find a job that you love but you can set yourself mini-goals such as updating your resume and cover letters, finding new ways to job search such as joining a professional group or applying to a certain number of jobs.

If you stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize, there's no telling where you can go! Good luck, post grads!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Eliminating the 'Easy' in Your Career

A well-known office supply chain offers its customers the ability to make things 'easy' by pressing a button. Easy...what a loaded word. When things are easy, they aren't difficult. Tasks are performed knowledgeably and quickly, and the outcome is almost always certain and to your liking. We naturally gravitate toward the easy, and-for the most part-we want things in our careers to be easy: customers to come back, supervisors to like our work, work to be completed on-time and with little difficulty. Easy is the way to go, right?

But here's the rub: excellence is hard. Learning important life-lessons is difficult. And oftentimes our best work was created under strenuous circumstances.

If we want to get what we want in our careers, we need to be prepared to abandon the easy and embrace the difficult. Think back to the greatest lessons you learned in your career life, and I'm willing to bet that most-if not all-of them had nothing to do with things that were easy. The hours you put in studying to achieve the grades you desired. The strenuous practice to prepare for the work presentation of your career. The time conditioning your body so you can be the athlete you want to be. When circumstances are difficult, we strive to meet the challenge; when they become easy, we stay stagnant and stuck in a rut.

Use the following questions to guide in determining where you need to make things more difficult for the sake of your career:

Where in my career life am I feeling intimidated or do I need to apply more pressure to myself?

In what aspects of my career life do I feel that I have been 'coasting' or have I already mastered?

How would my career be better if I could push myself in these areas?

What am I willing to do, and what am I not willing to do?

What will I do today that will move me in the direction that I want to move in?

Circumstances don't make you; they reveal you. Push yourself in your career to be the professional that you want to be.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. 7 Ways to Conduct a Job Search Like a Professional Athlete
"Ready for the big game? An athlete prepares for months, even years, with a rigorous training schedule, healthy eating, keeping focused on the end result – the win. Before you hit the streets looking for your next big career move, consider what  you need to do to prepare."

2. Volunteering = Career Development
"There is also another great reward that results from volunteering: career development. And I don’t just mean the typical resume booster of listing charities and charitable events under your community involvement section."

3. The 5 Secrets to Staying Employed
"It's easy to say you have "great communication skills" or that you're a leader in your field; it's another thing to demonstrate it on a regular basis."

4. Best Practices for Emailing Hiring Managers 
"Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your emails will catch the eye of those hiring managers and recruiters and you will land that first interview."

5. 12 Tips for a Smooth Transition to Your New Job
"Whether it took you two weeks, two months or two years to land this position, your first few days on the job will be the most memorable, so it’s essential you make a good impression."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Post Grad Advice: You Need Your Own Ride to Land Your Own Job

Being a post grad is tough. Whether you have a job or are still searching for one, you need a vehicle to get around. If you don't have reliable transportation, you won't be able to land or keep a job. Yet how do you go about getting a car with a limited income? Coming right out of college, you probably borrowed a car or used your parent's cars. You probably didn't even need a car if you lived on campus. Yet now you're faced with loans and car payments and scary "real world" problems.

Recently, my father gave me a deadline of sorts. I must get a new car by June. It doesn't matter if it is a new, used or leased car, I just have to do it. Even though I've lived in an apartment away from my parents, I've graduated college, I work, this seemed like such a big adult step. A post grad first of sorts. I had been dreading shelling out all that money, doing the research and honestly I had no idea where to start. I didn't know all the steps involved and I didn't even really want to think about it. Now that I've done it, here's what I learned, which any post grad can relate to:

1. Figure out your "must haves". This can be different for everyone. For example, I know many people who work for Chrysler so I wanted to have an American-made car. I wanted a car with better gas mileage because I drive a Jeep and feel like I'm constantly blowing money at the gas station. You may want other things, such as a certain color or heated seats. Decide what options are non-negotiable and which ones you can forget about due to cost.

2. Take a look at your options. First you must decide how much you can realistically spend on car payments each month. You may pay rent or still live at home. Take a look at your income and expenses each month and determine a number you'd be comfortable paying each month for a car. Don't forget about insurance costs, taxes and gas too!

3. Research the differences between buying a new car, buying a used car and leasing a car. Determine the best option for you. For example, if you choose to lease, you can get a new vehicle every two years but you have to be extra careful and keep it very clean and you never own it. A new car versus a used car is obviously wear and tear and cost.

4. Once you decide, go to a dealership or ask around to see if you know anyone selling a car. Try to go to a dealership when they are closed at first to take a look at the vehicles you may be interested in without a salesperson hounding you. Write down a few vehicle numbers and look them up online as well if you are able to find out more information or cost.

5. If you want to buy new or used, visit your bank or credit union to talk about a loan. Sometimes they can tell you how much you would be approved for and at what interest rate before you decide on a specific car. If you've decided what car you want, fill out an auto loan application, most of which you can do online these days. Make sure you set up some insurance before you buy as well. You can get auto insurance quotes on most insurance websites to shop around.

6. Once you're approved for a loan or decide on a lease you can afford, visit your dealership. It is a good idea to bring a parent or family member you trust that has experience buying cars. They can help you haggle a lower price or just give you advice so you don't get screwed over by a pushy salesperson.

7. When you get your car, be proud of yourself that you figured it all out! Take good care of it and pay your monthly payments on time each month to establish good credit as a young adult.

8. Now that you have your own ride, you can feel more comfortable about being an adult and keeping or finding a great job!

What advice do you have for post grads looking to get a new car? Please comment on this post below!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview Preparation Checklist

You have done your homework, prepared for all the possible interview questions, and decided what to wear the day of the interview. However, no matter how much advance preparation you make, if you are not ready the day of the interview, it will all be for nothing.

Here is a checklist of what you should do to prepare yourself for the day of the interview.

What to take with you to the interview:
  • Multiple copies of your resume. Be sure to take enough copies for everyone that may be interviewing you as well as a few extras just in case. Make sure you take the same resume you sent to obtain the interview. Print your formatted resume on high-quality resume paper so it is pleasing to the eye.
  • Note paper and pen. You probably will not be asked to fill out an application by hand in today's technology-centered workplace. However, be prepared just in case with a pen and all the information you will need to complete an application. Also, take note paper to write down details of the interview, interviewer name, and any interesting facts you learn about the job in the interview. These notes can be used when writing your thank you letter.
  • Traveling directions. Not only should you take traveling directions, you should also take a "dry run" driving to the interview locations at the same time as your interview to evaluate traffic conditions. Leave yourself extra time - and plan an alternate route - for unforeseen circumstances such as traffic jams or road closures.
  • Questions you are going to ask. Use this previous blog post to develop your interview questions. Write them down and take them with you to the interview.
Last minute preparation tips:
  • Arrive ten minutes early. You should arrive no sooner than 20 minutes early and no later than 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Arriving right on-time is almost equivalent to being late.
  • Leave your troubles at home. The interviewer does not want to hear about your nasty divorce or your worries that if you don't get a job, you will be evicted. The employer wants to hire someone who will not bring their personal problems to work. The interview is your chance to demonstrate that trait.
  • Research the company in advance. You should know everything about the company: its mission statement, its competitors, and how you can add value to the business. Prepare your answer to the question "why do you want to work here" by conducting advance research.

Your First Professional Job Prepares You for Success

You’ve landed your first professional job. Consider it a foot in the door and time to do your very best. Your first professional job can and should be the start of a journey that leads to a rewarding and satisfying career.

Establish a Good Reputation

Make a name for yourself, and make sure it is a positive one. Do this by demonstrating that you are a team player, as well as hard-working, reliable, smart, and willing to listen and learn from others. Work with passion and strive for excellence in every task you undertake.

Learn from Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, particularly people who are new to a company and industry. Recognize you’re bound to make a few mistakes; the important thing is how you handle them. Be accountable for your mistakes and inform those who may be impacted. Proactively look for ways to solve any problems you may cause. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Mistakes are great opportunities for learning.

Build a Network

Your first professional job is an opportunity to build strong relationships—relationships that can last throughout your career. Make an effort to meet and network with as many people as you can; take a genuine interest in them and what they are doing professionally. Remember, a strong network must be continually fostered and grown.

By doing your very best in your first job, you will likely open doors to your next, whether it’s an opportunity for advancement with your current employer or another organization. This first job can be the one that puts you on the path to career success.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Subtle Ways Military Veterans Can Begin the Transition to Civilian Life

Military veterans face a myriad of challenges when they begin their transition into the private sector workforce. I have talked in previous blog posts about translating your skills in both the resume and interview. However, I would like to explore some of the subtle ways you can demonstrate you are ready and able to make the transition into the civilian world. Remember, the point of this exercise is to show how you will fit right in, and often that is more psychology than fact!

Dates and Time
Although this may not be as easy as it sounds, begin to use the standard, civilian method of telling time when interacting with a civilian. Want to meet for an interview at 1300, you better explain to your civilian interviewer that you will be there at 1:00 pm. Additionally, in the military you state the day, then the month, then the year when writing your dates. Try to transition into month, day, year when stating your dates so that you will fit in better.

Drop the Alphabet Soup
Acronyms and military lingo are second nature for a military veteran. However, you can't use those same acronyms and terminology in a conversation with a civilian and expect them to be able to follow your meaning. Most every acronym you have used in the military will need to be translated in your conversations. For example, don't call yourself an NCOIC - civilians have no idea what that means. Instead call yourself the manager or team leader of whichever field of speciality in which you worked.

Ease up on the Formality
The combination of my knowledge of military terminology and my tendency to call everyone sir or ma'am has most people convinced I am a military veteran. I am not a veteran, I am simply polite. I am not suggesting you suddenly lose your manners. However, you may want to loosen up a bit in your communication style. It is okay to call people sir or ma'am in conversation, but do you need to do it every single time you answer a question in a conversation with them? Find a balance between casual conversation and polite manners so you don't intimidate people.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Go on a Privacy Offensive, Not Defensive

This past week Forbes published an interesting article about how the retailer Target figured out a teenage customer was pregnant before her parents knew. Target, it turns out, gives each customer a unique identification number and-using credit card information and login data from online purchases-tracks what we buy, using this information to tailor its marketing efforts. Those coupons you got from Target in the mail last week? More than likely, they are 100% different from the ones sent to me.

Privacy, of course, is dead and has been for a long time. Background checks are so ubiquitous that anyone with a credit card and computer can perform one...on any one of us. And career experts have guided candidates to lock up their social media accounts for fear of having its contents reflect negatively upon them.

For years we have been on the privacy defensive...I propose a privacy offensive.

Online presence: Instead of locking up your social media, use it strategically to reinforce your personal brand. Create profiles on not just the ubiquitous sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) but also some of the up-and-coming ones like Google + and Pinterest to profile the unique, professional you.

Personality profiles: Personality profiles like the MBTI, DiSC, Insights, and StrengthsFinder can be used to show employers unique talents and qualities you possess that will benefit their organizations. Highlight the information provided on these assessments to give objectivity to your personal marketing, and strengthen them with concrete examples of how you exemplify those qualities.

References: Don't just contact your references and prepare them for a potential phone call from a prospective employer. Ask your references to cite specific examples of your leadership, work skills, and/or knowledge that apply directly to the position for which you are applying. This will empower them to demonstrate how you can help that employer specifically, and they won't have to search, themselves, for answers that are the best fit.

Don't be held back by the Information Age. Use it to proactively empower you and your career.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. How to Increase Your Visibility & Networking Quietly
"You’re not ready to go public with your job search, but you want to cultivate higher visibility in your industry and grow your connections to key decision-makers."

2. There is No Career Ladder
"It's a different world. But if a world without career ladders allows you to take charge of your own career, then it is a far better one."

3. Want Career Success? Become a Lifelong Learner
"My best common sense suggestion for becoming a lifelong learner is simple.  Read.  Read technical journals.  Read trade magazines.  Read business publications ..."

4. 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Job Prospects 
"Not landing the job you want? How can you change your luck? Stop what you're doing and make some changes; you may be surprised by the results."

5. The Jobs Offering the Brightest Futures
"If you want to ride a crest of increasing employment over the next 10 years, get into health care, personal care, social assistance or construction."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are Your Dreams not Going to Happen? How to Change Your Focus and Achieve Success

Do you remember your first real crush? Well, I have a ten year-old daughter and she has had a crush on a boy since last year. She recently went on an overnight (well-supervised) co-ed trip with school and her crush attended as well. This boy was mean to her and treated her very poorly. When she came home she told me, "He was disrespectful to me and I deserve better than that. I am all done with him."

Of course, I was very proud of how well she handled the situation. However, given my career services focus, the situation made me think about how people often react negatively when their dreams are crushed. Just this week, I wrote about doing what you love. What about when we discover what we have been dreaming about is not going to happen? Here are some ideas of how to change your focus to achieve success anyway.

Evaluate the reason why not.
Even if you did not get your "dream job," is it possible that your focus was too narrow? Look at the root cause of the failure to define whether or not you had the right target in mind in the first place.

Skip the pity party.
Try to avoid seeing yourself as a victim and stay away from asking questions like "why me?" or telling yourself "nothing ever goes my way." Seeing yourself as a victim prevents you from taking responsibility for the actions that you need to focus on to change the situation. Instead, ask yourself "what are the positive aspects of what has happened?" and "what can I learn from what has happened so I can make sure it does not happen again?"

Take a break from your dream.
Take some time to focus on something different. This distraction will help you distance yourself from the pain and disappointment of not realizing your dreams. Who knows, you may discover a new skill or passion you never even knew you had.

Deal with it and move on.
Granted, a ten year-old's 5th grade crush is nothing compared to career failure - but to her it was a big deal. Take a page from my daughter's book - accept the failure, deal with it and move on. Try to find a way to still follow your passion, but maybe look at it from a new perspective. Try to avoid looking into the past with feelings of anger, guilt, or regret. The only time we should look back in life is to reminisce about happy memories or learn from past failures.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Obstacles that Can Keep a New Hire from Succeeding

When looking for a job, it can be helpful to consider any obstacles you might face that could get in the way of your success and job satisfaction once you’re hired. Being mindful of potential obstacles can guide the type of questions you pose to a prospective employer during an interview.

The following are just a few of the obstacles to think about that might pose a problem after you’re hired.

Poor Onboarding Process

The onboarding process—or orientation—is designed to help new employees gain a better understanding of the company and how they fit into the organization. The ultimate goal is to make new employees productive as quickly as possible. When done correctly, onboarding can take several months. However, some companies take a “sink or swim” approach, making it more difficult to understand the big picture and how you fit in. It’s best to know which approach the company takes before you accept the job.

Lack of Communication

Poor communication on management’s part can negatively affect the work you do, especially when you’re just learning the ropes. It is difficult to succeed if you don’t clearly understand your responsibilities and/or management’s expectations, so do your best to identify these up front.

Job Misrepresentation

When you start a new job, you should have a good idea of what your new job entails when it comes to tasks, workload, and the hours required. The more you know up front, the less chance you’ll find yourself in a position you wish you had never accepted.

Culture Misfit

A company’s culture and its people can be extremely important when it comes to job satisfaction. Identifying the company culture early should help you mesh with your new co-workers. No one wants to work where they don’t fit in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Find What You Love to Do

I am not one of those people who have known since they were five years old - or even twenty five - what they wanted to do. I went to college, not because I had a goal in mind, but because it was expected of me. For almost fourteen years, I was not happy in my career. Some may say, why didn't you just make a change?

You should be prepared to realistically spend 40 to 50 years working full-time. Why spend all those years doing something that does not make you happy? In my opinion, there are two main reasons that people don't pursue their "dream" job and do what they really love to do. Once these two reasons can be overcome, there really is no stopping you from pursuing what you really love to do.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. - Steve Jobs

Reason #1
The first reason is that people don't have any clue as to what kind of career will make them happy. This was definitely my case. I did not have the knowledge or resources to help me assess what career I fit best into. Your first step in finding out what you love by assessing your values, your personality, and the type of work environment that suits those both. Often, instead of doing what we love to do, we struggle between what we think we can do, what we (or others) think we ought to do, and what we want to do.

Sit down and write out an exhaustive list of your skills first. Next, in a column next to your list of skills write out your interests. Write down every interest you can think of, including those subjects of which you have knowledge. For example, I really enjoy mysteries. I approach each customer interaction as discovering hidden treasure and helping them uncover the mystery of what accomplishments they have not yet realized. Evaluate your list of skills and interests and chances are you will find correlation between the two that you can bring together.

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want. - Margaret Young

Reason #2
The second reason is that we are not asking ourselves the right questions. The right job enhances your life, it feels natural because it is an extension of your personality, and it does not force you to do things that you do not do well. It simply reflects who you are.

Ask yourself these questions when you are deciding what is the right job for you:
  • Do you look forward to going to work?
  • Do you feel energized by what you do?
  • Do you feel respected and appreciated for the contributions you make?
  • Are you proud to describe what you do?
  • Do you enjoy and respect the people you work with on a regular basis?
  • Do you feel optimistic about your future in the job?
The path toward career satisfaction is quite simple, although not easy. Figure out your preferences and then find a job that accommodates them. Good luck pursuing your career love!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making a Graceful Career Exit

It was 9:30pm and the party-which began 12 hours previous-was heating up. Their kids under the watchful eye of babysitters, the crowd I was hanging out with were free to cut loose and enjoy themselves. As I looked at my watch and surveyed the scene, one thing became clear to me:

It was time to leave.

I have no kids, I had a place to sleep that night, and I had nothing to do the next day. So what was my problem? I intently thought about this on my drive home, and it surprised me how closely the answers I came up with correlated with one's career. Sometimes-despite what logic may dictate-it's time to make a graceful career exit.

Values: Values are at the core of who you are, guiding your thoughts and actions. When I thought about staying longer at the party, I literally did a value check: how would staying later resonate with my values? While I had a blast up until that point, I noticed my values of peace and rest were winning over my value of socializing. They won, so I left. When it comes to your career, your values are an essential barometer of your feelings. You could be very successful in a career field but feel it conflict with other values: family, recreation. money, responsibility. Action To Do: Assess your current job with your values and see where it is meeting and not meeting them.

Time: Coinciding with values, time was another factor I considered. When I was at the party, I had a lot of fun! I was eating, singing karaoke, and socializing with old friends. As the night went on, though, the return that I was getting on my time was lessening. I had caught up with my friends. I was full. I didn't need to sing any more songs. If I had stayed longer than I had, the good time I had would have been colored by how much I didn't want to be there anymore. In your job, what could have been an enriching opportunity in the beginning may have run its course. Action To Do: Assess the time you have put in to your current position: have you received the benefit from it that you feel you need to receive?

Social Pressure: This is the factor that I struggled with the most, as I'm sensitive to-for better or for worse-what others think about me. When deciding whether to leave I had an internal dialogue, debating how my departure my be perceived? "Is he mad at us?" "Why is he being a jerk?" Social forces are powerful and need to be overcome to make a decision that resonates with you and your career? Action To Do: Assess the social forces that are keeping you in your career. Are they playing a bigger role than they should be?

Your career is the party, but there are other parties out there. Connect with yourself to make the best choices for you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. 10 Career-Limiting Mistakes to Avoid
"The vast majority of people find a comfort zone and settle in there. They don't aggressively manage their careers."

2. 20 Questions Smart Employees Ask Themselves
"These 20 questions cover five key areas that are critical to your accurately evaluating how well you’re doing at work."

3. 4 Essentials for Reaching Out to Strangers on LinkedIn
"Last week, I received an info interview request from a total stranger as a direct message on LinkedIn. And despite my very busy schedule, I decided to take his call."

4. Bounce Back from Job Search Dejection 
"There is randomness in job searches. Not every step will be successful. It's easier said than done, but here are three ways to build resilience."

5. 10 Ways to Ruin a Job Interview
"You can have the perfect resume and a compelling cover letter and show up for the job interview ready to impress, but get ready to forgo the job offer if you make one of these stumbles."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Generalist or Specialist: Look at Both

In choosing an occupation of interest, you may have researched extensively, including projected growth, industry opportunities, and roles and responsibilities. But did you remember to inquire about areas of specialization? If not, you may want to look closer at the occupation you’re interested in to determine the need for specialization and whether you are better suited to be a generalist or a specialist.

A generalist is someone who possesses broad, “general” knowledge and skills in several areas. If you’re a generalist, you can typically perform a variety of functions within a company and hence often contribute on many levels. A specialist displays deeper knowledge, skills, and experience that is typically concentrated in one area. As a specialist, you might find yourself being the company’s “go-to expert” when it comes to a particular area of focus.

There are pros and cons for each, and both should be investigated before pursuing a path of generalist or specialist. In doing so, be mindful of your personality. For example, do you prefer to know a little about many different functional business areas, or would you prefer to learn the nuances of a particular area? Do you enjoy performing a variety of tasks, or would you rather master a particular area and its related skills?

No matter what path you choose--generalist or specialist--your goals should include continued learning and committing to doing your very best.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Advice for Career Changers

Whether you find yourself unemployed and looking for a new job or are currently employed and simply dissatisfied with your career path, if you want to make a career change there are several steps you should take first to ensure a successful transition. These steps will not only help you ensure you are satisfied in your in your new career path, they will also help you land a position in your new field much faster. If you follow this step-by-step process, even in a tough job market you will have a greater chance of success.

Assess your interests.
First of all, you must identify what you don't like about your current career. Is it the hours, tasks, or the pay? Identifying what you don't like will help you ensure you don't get into the same situation in a different field. If most of your complaints center around your boss, the company, co-workers, or the environment in which you work, you may just need to consider a change of companies - not careers.

A few online resources are available for you to assess your personality and work values. You can use www.humanmetrics.com to conduct a free online personality assessment. A few books I recommend are Do What You Are, by Tieger and Barron or Now Discover Your Strengths, by Buckingham and Clifton.

Research the new career field thoroughly.
Make informed decisions based on lots of information gathered while researching your new career field. The first step is to look at labor market research to determine the field's education requirements, the job market outlook for the next three to five years, wages and benefits, demographics, and the industry-leading companies. You can access much of this information through the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the O*NET. Also consider research methods such as job shadowing, volunteering or interning in the field, or informational interviewing.

Identify your transferable skills.
Once you have done your research on the career field, it is time to identify the skills you already have that can transfer over to the new career field. For example, if you have been in the mortgage industry and want to transition into the administrative support field you would want to focus on skills such as documentation management, compiling correspondence, tracking ongoing projects to ensure deadlines are met, and protecting confidential information.

Transferable skills are general skills that are portable. They can be used in many different work settings and you carry them with you throughout your career.

Market yourself effectively.
Career changers are not always effective in the traditional method of sending out resumes in the hopes of landing a job. Networking is even more important to these job seekers than people with solid industry experience. Follow the E.C.H.O. principle when networking - that stands for every contact has opportunity. Prepare your "elevator speech" so you are ready to explain to your new networking contact who you are, what skills you can offer, and what type of assistance you are seeking.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Learning When and How to Say No

I must admit, my initial research of this subject was entirely self-serving. I am guilty of superhero syndrome. You may know it as well. The symptoms are an unrealistic idea that you can take on anything that comes your way and a severe allergy to saying "NO." This inability to say no has led me to lose sleep, neglect taking care of myself and my own priorities, resentment of those that I am helping, and a plate full of stress and frustration.

Let's examine some of my, and many other people's, reasons it is so hard to say "NO." In addition, let's look at how we might politely, gently, and diplomatically say "NO" once in a while.

A genuine interest in helping other people
I am a kind and generous person who genuinely enjoys the opportunity to help other people. However, what I need to work on is not letting someone else's lack of preparation become MY emergency. Here is how I am going to try to respond to this situation.

"It is not a good time for me right now, as I am backed up with other projects. How about if we make an appointment to speak next week, so we can both give the project our full attention and not be rushed."

Fear of missing out on opportunities
For many of us, we fail to say no and over-extend ourselves or agree to something we really don't want to do because of the fear of closing a door. I suggest we analyze the opportunity that is being presented against the cost at which it will come. In the future, if I am presented with an opportunity that has too great a cost for its potential benefit, here is how I will try to respond.

"This sounds like an exciting opportunity and I would love to work with you when my schedule permits. I can not participate, but I hope you will stay in touch so we can work together on future projects."

Fear of being rude
Sometimes, I say yes simply because I do not want to hurt someone's feelings or burn a bridge because of rejection. Saying "NO" does not always mean you are being rude or even disagreeable. There does not always have to be a disagreement, especially when you are honest with the person who is asking. I think next time I will try this response.

"I can't help you at this time because . . . "

Notice that I did not include the words "I'm sorry" in any of my responses. Don't apologize for being busy and having priorities, revel in your success! I will check back in and keep you posted on my progress at saying no. Send me comments about how you go about saying no and avoid over-extending yourself.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Career Success by Reexamining Your Stories

Once upon a time there was a nice guy safely driving to the grocery store when-all of a sudden-some jerk cut him off. The nice guy honked his horn to let the jerk know that he had endangered the nice guy's life, but the jerk went about his business, exiting at the next street.

Sound familiar? A recent trip to the grocery store turned into a ready-for-TV drama, all because of "some jerk." But notice the point of view that this story is told from: that of the "nice guy." What if you were to learn that the "jerk" was racing to the hospital because his wife had been seriously injured in an accident.

Wow, different story now, isn't it?

We are telling ourselves stories all of the time, and the stories that we tell ourselves around our career can turn into self-fulfilling prophesies. Through our stories we can feel empowered or victimized depending on the information we choose to process and the assumptions that we make. This is particularly pertinent to our careers: a bad economy, terrible unemployment, and other factors outside ourselves can keep us in a perspective where we are not the triumphant hero...but the pitiable victim. But if the economy is so bad, why are some industries thriving? And if unemployment is so terrible, why do employees still leave their jobs?

The stories that we tell ourselves shape our self-concept, our outlook, and-ultimately-our behavior. If you find that you are struggling in your career, examine your stories by asking yourself the questions below:

What stories have I been telling about my current career?

In what way am I a hero in these stories? In what way am I the victim?

How were my decisions in these stories influenced?

What different decisions could I have made to change this story?

How will this knowledge influence my future actions?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. 5 Ways to Burn Bridges, Get Blacklisted and Stunt Career Growth
"If you're looking for some surefire ways to burn professional bridges and leave a bad taste in the mouths of colleagues, consider the following tips."

2. Simple Changes that Can Propel Your Career
"Don’t just do what you are told. Identify the biggest issues that your role covers, and go after these."

3. The Biggest Career Mistakes Millennials Make
"I think the biggest gift millennials will give us is their ceaseless interest in producing things that didn’t exist before."

4. Create a Meaningful Life Through Meaningful Work 
"Maybe the real depression we've got to contend with isn't merely one of how much economic output we're generating — but what we're putting out there, and why."

5. The Art of the Informational Interview
"When you set a meeting, it’s your responsibility to lead the agenda. Have a purpose for the meeting, prepare several questions, and prepare some discussion points."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pre-Employment Background Screenings

Congratulations, you have made it through the interview process and are one of the top candidates for the job. Your prospective employer will be doing a background screening, and you are wondering what to expect. First, don’t be alarmed. Many employers conduct pre-employment background screenings to verify information about candidates they are interested in hiring.

The Background Report
Some companies use third-party consumer reporting agencies to provide background reports. These agencies must adhere to provisions in the government’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). However, companies conducting their own in-house screenings are not held to FCRA guidelines. The FCRA is a federal law governing credit reporting so as to protect privacy and promote information accuracy. The FCRA stipulates that, before employers can have consumer reporting agencies run a background screening for employment purposes, they must obtain your written consent. Before signing anything, take the necessary time to read up on the FCRA.

Most screenings verify personal identification information; review employment, credit, and driving histories; check educational records; and explore any record of criminal activity. Other data collected includes, but is not limited to, property ownership; worker’s compensation claims; bankruptcies; and licensing, medical, and military records.

Be Prepared
A background screening is simply an extra verification to ensure that the candidate a company is planning on hiring is representing himself/herself truthfully and won’t pose a risk to the organization. Be sure the information on your resume and application is accurate, and know in advance what is on your credit report. There’s no better time to take advantage of the FCRA provision granting you free access to your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide reporting companies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Should you Have your Resume Critiqued?

I volunteered at a networking event yesterday where I offered free resume critiques to job seekers who had been displaced. Each person that sat down at the table with me had previously asked another "resume professional" to evaluate their resume prior to talking with me. Every one of them had been given information that was different (and often just flat-out wrong) than what I suggested.

If you follow my blog posts, you have probably heard me say that resumes are as subjective as beauty. Everyone has different opinions and different preferences. However, instead of nitpicking your use of font and whether you use circles or squares for your bullets, let's look at the fundamentals that you must ask yourself about your resume.

Is your Resume Clear and Focused?
Within the first few seconds of looking at your resume, often in the first line of the summary section, an employer should have no doubt regarding your job target. Never use a generic or vague objective statement. This will cause some employers to stop reading immediately.

Do you Clearly State the Benefit you Can Offer an Employer?
Companies hire to either fill a need or solve a problem. Clearly convey what will make you cost-effective to the employer. Focus on your return on investment or ROI. After reading your resume, they should have a clear understanding of how you will earn the money they will pay you.

Does your Resume Contain Measurable Accomplishments?
Use your previous measurable accomplishments to demonstrate the value you can bring to an employer. It is no longer enough to state you have a skill, prove it to them with past examples.

Is your Resume Error-free?
One spelling error, one misused word, or one mistake can often be enough for an employer to take a pass on calling you. Think of your resume as a paper representation of you. If you are applying for a position that requires attention to detail and professionalism with a resume full of errors, chances are you will not be successful.

So, to answer the original question, should you have your resume critiqued? The answer is yes, but do it in moderation and don't make knee-jerk reactions to every single thing they tell you. Don't show it to every "expert" you come across. Also, ensure the person who is looking at your resume is qualified to do so. Look for Certified Resume Writers (yes such a thing does exist) and listen to how they talk about the job search process to ensure their knowledge and information is up-to-date.

Why Post Grads Should Have a Business Card

I never thought much about business cards when I was in college or even right after graduating. I always thought that only the very professional, high up people had business cards, not recent post grads. Yet, think about it this way. Last April, I attended an event at the university I attended with one of the companies I work with as a freelancer. There were a lot of opportunities to network at this event and one of my colleagues asked if I had business cards to give out. He was shocked when I said no and actually made me write down my information on the back of his business card to give out. I'm sure that looked super unprofessional to give out written information.

Now I make sure I have business cards with me at all times. You never know when the need will strike. For example, last week I was getting my nails done at a new salon where I had a gift card. I was chatting with the nail technician about what I do and she mentioned she had been thinking of advertising and one of the websites I wrote for sounded like a good match for her to advertise. Great opportunity to give her my business card!

So how should you make your business card? These questions can help you:

What type of field are you in? If you're in a more creative field, such as graphic design, you can make your card a bit more flashy and artistic. If you want to be an accountant however, make it a little more simple and professional.

How do you want your potential employers to contact you? Some people might just want their phone numbers or email address or both on their card. I wouldn't put your home address on there just for potential safety risks.

Make your card clear, simple and always professional. It could give you an edge on other post grads that completely forgot about business cards. Tell us, why do you think post grads should have business cards and what should they add to them?